BEREA - We have an answer to the culprit in the game of clue surrounding the botched snap on Phil Dawson's missed field goal Sunday, and, no, it wasn't Colonel Mustard in the conservatory with a lead pipe.
It was long snapper Ryan Pontbriand in Cleveland Browns Stadium with Alex Mack's right foot.
Mack, as he always does, planted his right foot inside the left foot of Pontbriand to create a seal that opposing linemen can't easily break down. Pontbriand, who went to the Pro Bowl last season for his snapping skills, failed to get the ball high enough to clear Mack's foot.
So Pontbriand was correct after the game when he accepted blame for what turned out to be a wide-left, 22-yard attempt by Dawson. The Rams held on for a 13-12 win that seems as improbable today as the Browns playing in a Super Bowl.
"The snap was low because the foot was on the ground," coach Pat Shurmur said after viewing video of the play.
The play continued to dominate most discussions about the game nearly 24 hours after the final horn sounded. It was the ultimate head-scratcher for an organization that's known almost nothing but defeats (some in heartbreaking fashion) since its return to the NFL in 1999.
Shurmur understands the frustration of the fans. Being from Dearborn, Mich., he became accustomed to the losing ways of the Detroit Lions.
"I'm from a town that's dealt with fans loving their team and not having it go their way all the time," Shurmur said. "I get that. I'm not from Mars. But I wasn't here the previous 12 years. I can sympathize with those feelings.
"I came to work as someone who lives in Cleveland disappointed that we lost. I just happen to be in a position right now to inspire a bunch of guys to go win a game that will make our fans extremely proud."
The field-goal attempt wasn't the only topic that remained hot at Shurmur's Monday press conference. He was hit with questions about his decision to call three running plays inside the Rams' 10 instead of attempting at least one pass to try to score a touchdown.
With slightly more than two minutes remaining in the game, the Rams would have had another chance to score if Dawson had kicked a field goal. Obviously, all they would have needed to win was a field goal.
"I'll go to the well with what I did, and I'll go to the well lining up to kick the field goal," Shurmur said. "Making them use timeouts and leaving them nearing two minutes and try driving it to beat us. I'll do that again."
The strangest happening during those final plays was a fullback dive call. Fullback Owen Marecic was out after suffering a minor injury two plays earlier. Shurmur wasn't informed of that until just before the ball was snapped.
So instead of Marecic receiving the handoff, quarterback Colt McCoy gave the ball to tight end Alex Smith, who promptly fumbled the exchange. Josh Cribbs was fortunate to recover the ball for the Browns for a gain of 2 yards.
Shurmur admitted that he probably wouldn't have called Smith's number if he had known earlier that Marecic was hurt. Smith, who's never played fullback, has never taken a handoff in a game or on the practice field.
"I knew who was in the game, and I chose not to stop the play," Shurmur said. "Partly because I couldn't get to an official, and I couldn't get to Colt to communicate."
Shurmur couldn't wait to end the press conference and turn his attention towards the Jacksonville Jaguars, who visit Cleveland Sunday. Before he left he was asked if he feels the same frustrations that four previous coaches did in trying unsuccessfully to put the team on a winning track.
"I believe in my heart of hearts that we can get it done," Shurmur said. "That has nothing to do with my feelings. I was angry yesterday because we had a game we had a chance to win, and we didn't."
That was painfully clear to fans that were in attendance.